Return to the motherland, Part 1

So, the Husband and I have just returned from our two (and a piece) weeks exploring England and Scotland. We had a marvelous time even if I felt like I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I usually prefer to be. We hit fantastic weather; it rained maybe two days during our entire trip. We started out in London and then rented a car to go off exploring. I got to return to England to see plenty of castles and ruined abbeys, warming my I-minored-in-Medieval-Studies heart. The Husband got to hit up the whiskey trail in Scotland… you don’t want to know how many hundreds of dollars in scotch returned home with us! So, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be putting up a report on our trip to offer recommendations for any fellow travelers out there.

Alas, here’s to real bacon, local ales, chippies, and tea the way it was meant to be enjoyed!

Day 1: London

The flight to England was pretty smooth and slightly entertaining. Or it would have been had the drunk lady behind me not woken up half the plane in the middle of flight. The fun part was she wasn’t even supposed to be sitting there. She just kept coming up to hit on/try to illicit a mile-high encounter with the gentleman, sitting behind the Husband, whom she met at the airport bar. The flight attendants had to keep escorting her back to her seat at his request. It did get to be pretty funny (although a bit loud at times). That aside, we got to Heathrow bright and early, and here I must stop to praise the customs and baggage efficiency of the Brits. From the time the plane touched down to the time we exited the terminal to meet our ride, it took about 35 minutes. I have NEVER been in and out that quickly in an airport before. It was great! We met up with our car hire and made our way to the hotel, St. Ermin’s. We ended up staying here to earn a few Marriott points. The location of the hotel is perfect, being just around the block from St. James tube station and just a 5-10 minute walk to Westminster Abbey. It was expensive as are nearly all London hotels, but I’d consider staying here again in the future.

Being early, of course, our room was not yet ready so we dropped off the luggage and headed out to grab a bite to eat. And as an aside: let me just insert here my own personal triumph with regard to our luggage- we packed for over two weeks in Europe using just our small and medium suitcases. No large suitcase needed! ::ahem:: I am very proud of that! ūüėČ

Breakfast ended up being a cute little diner not far from the hotel where you could get a full English breakfast (egg, bacon, sausage, beans, tomatoes, toast, tea) for ¬£5. You just can’t beat that! We then decided to get an overview of the city by spending some time doing a loop on one of the hop-on/hop-off buses. We did this in Dublin years ago and loved it. Unfortunately, London is not Dublin and this was one activity I kind of regret. The loop we chose ended up being never ending. We never finished it because we had spent too many hours on the bus already and the company had everyone get off to change buses three times in a fifteen minute time span, so we were pretty much done at that point. It was just obnoxious. With that in mind, I do not recommend Big Bus Tours in London, for what it’s worth. After spending longer than we should have on the bus, we headed up to the British Library which has an exhibit that displays some truly amazing manuscripts. There are early manuscripts from Judaism, Hindu, Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. There is a Gutenberg Bible. ¬†There are letters written by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. There are the original Beatles music¬†scores, handwritten by the boys themselves. There’s one of the original copies of the Magna Carta. You can’t not love this place!

After visiting the library, we hopped the bus back towards the hotel to grab some dinner and to turn in early in preparation for a jam-packed day of sightseeing the next day.

Big Ben

Big Ben

Georgia on my mind

Long time no see! It has been a crazy busy past few months here at chez C. I am so ready to settle back down and get back to the things I love. My basics, if you will. Food, wine, friends, and travel. Really, what else do you need?

As a welcome respite from the recent craziness, the husband and I decided to get the heck outta Dodge over spring break. We opted to spend a few days in Savannah, Georgia since neither of us had ever been.

One of Savannah's many squares

One of Savannah’s many squares

Savannah is often compared to lovely Charleston, South Carolina, because of all the similarities that exist between the two cities. We’ve travelled to Charleston on several occasions and I love that city. I’ve heard from many people who have visited both that it’s not difficult to choose a favorite between the two. For me, while I did enjoy our Savannah getaway, I have to say I prefer the ambiance of Charleston.

 

That said, we did have a nice¬†time in the city and I wanted to offer some information and suggestions for those who may look to visit in the future. To start, we stayed at Marshall House. It’s touted as being the oldest hotel in the city, having been serving the travelling public since 1851. It’s supposedly haunted and more interestingly has a really lovely wrought-iron veranda that runs the length of the second floor. If you’d like to partake in the veranda, you can book one of the second floor king suites and climb through your window to enjoy a quite evening rocking on one of the porch rocking chairs. This is what we did and I highly recommend it. As for the hotel itself, it’s old and full of character. I loved the high ceilings and wood floors. Some reviewers have complained about noise from both outside and other rooms, but we had no problems with either. The staff was friendly and helpful. The breakfast was just ok- it was a basic continental spread (Danish, bagels, canned fruit cocktail, bananas, yogurt). I would stay here again for what it’s worth.

 

Our first night in Savannah we decided to take a walking ghost tour to see some of the city by night (and because you know us, ghosts are our thing!) We had a great guide, and I really enjoyed the tour. It was the perfect blend of lore and history. Our tour was through Blue Orb Tours¬†so do check them out (they offer several types of tour) if you visit.¬†For dinner, we headed out to Alligator Soul which just a short walk away from the hotel. It’s a fine dining restaurant that specializes in organic, humanely raised, and fresh meals. The husband enjoyed a flight of local bourbons while I had a strawberry and basil mojito. It wasn’t terribly mojito-y, but it was tasty! For dinner, the husband started with shrimp and grits before moving to steak. I had a nice salad and an entree of kangaroo filet. I have to say, I was more than intrigued to hear the kangaroo special being offered that night and thought, “When else will I get the chance to try this?” And I’m glad that I did because it was very good! It was tender and tasted a bit like beef filet. We enjoyed desserts of chocolate cake and banana beignets before heading back to the hotel.

The following morning, we headed out for what turned out to be a private walking tour of the city with Old City Walks. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there are soooo many different tour operations and different ways to see the city, that especially in the off season, you can book a private or semi-private tour without realizing it! This tour was also very interesting and gave us a chance to explore the city by daylight. We got to see a variety of period architecture and learn a little more Savannah history as well. After the tour, we grabbed lunch at the Distillery (really good burgers!)¬†before heading off to Bonaventure cemetery. Many people have said that Bonaventure was the highlight of their trip to Savannah, and I will say that it was thoroughly enjoyable to visit. It’s a Victorian cemetery which means lots of really great gravestones to check out. We hired a tour guide for the cemetery to put some of the graves and people into context, and I’m glad we made that choice. Our guide, Jamie,¬†was sweet, upbeat, and a lot of fun to listen to. I do wish we’d spent a little more time just wandering on our own afterwards, but it was good to get back to the hotel and rest for a bit.

For dinner, we had reservations at Olde Pink House, which had been highly recommended by several sources. I would definitely give it an A+ for ambiance. We requested a table in the actual house, as opposed to the newer common seating area which is one large dining room. We were given a table in what is referred to as the office on the second floor. We had a small table by a window overlooking the street below. Tables were lit by candlelight and while our server was a bit quirky, the service was very good. We started with cocktails (the husband, bourbon- myself, the Pink Lady which was a raspberry vodka spiked lemonade) before splurging on a very lovely bottle of St. Estephe Bordeaux. For appetizers, the husband had pulled pork sliders (which seems an odd choice for a fine dining establishment, but whatever) and I had a fried green tomato dish. For entrees, I had a crab-stuffed red fish while¬†the husband enjoyed a NY strip. The food was decent, but I disappointed in our desserts- a chocolate mousse item for the husband and a chocolate torte-like thing for me. For a restaurant that was so highly touted, I was slightly disappointed, but I guess the ambiance makes it worth the visit, even if the food is just “ok.”¬†After dinner, we went back out to walk around a few of the squares before bed.

The following day, we started off with breakfast at Clary’s Cafe. This is a fairly standard diner with decent food and a sweet staff. We then spent the day exploring some more of the city we hadn’t seen yet. We walked down by the river visiting some small shops and enjoyed the sights along with riverwalk. We also spent a bit of time touring inside of Colonial Park Cemetery which is one of the oldest and still remaining cemeteries in Savannah. Many of the early cemeteries for the city were built upon as the city grew and space was needed, but this cemetery which holds the resting places for some of Savannah’s earliest citizens is still maintained and makes for a lovely walk. ¬†We had an early dinner at Crystal Beer Palace with a couple of pints and some delicious hamburgers. We had booked a haunted pub tour for that evening, but unfortunately, severe storms were in the forecast so the tour had to be cancelled. We ended up spending the evening on the hotel veranda watching the storm in the distance and the people on the street. It was a pleasant¬†evening either way.

We had a refreshing¬†trip to charming Savannah and I am glad that we had the chance to visit. While my heart may belong to Charleston, I wouldn’t hesitate to return and spend a little more time visiting the haunts of old Savannah.